By Susan Hale Thomas (Courtesy image)
What one-day event can stir up a rivalry in Alexandria every spring, pitting PTA against PTA, shopkeeper against shopkeeper and restaurant against restaurant?
The city’s 24-hour virtual online fundraising event, Spring2ACTion, can. The event kicks off Wednesday April 22 and readers should be prepared for those Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to light up with challenges from friends and colleagues around the city.
Since its inception in 2011, the annual event, hosted by ACT for Alexandria, has provided opportunities for local nonprofits to raise money targeted to benefit the Alexandria community.
John Porter, president and CEO of ACT, a local organization that works to increase community engagement and giving, said this year, with the addition of several arts groups to roster of 121 nonprofits, he expects Spring2ACTion will expand its reach and find new donors. The goal is to bring in 10,000 donors and another $1 million.
Porter said Alexandrians have given generously each year but he thinks the event can reach even more people through a new tactic this time around: free-agent fundraising. A new tactic for this year’s effort, it allows people to register as champions for a cause and raise money themselves for a specific charity. Therefore, it allows for exponential searches for donors.
Last year, more than 7,500 donors raised more than $1 million in just one day.
“The response has been amazing,” Porter said. “We started off our first year raising a little over $100,000 and the year before last, we finished at $670,000. The program manager said to me last year, ‘We’re going to go for $1 million this year.’ … And we did it. I was very impressed and pleased with donations involved.”
Among the many success stories Spring2ACTion has produced is that of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Farming and Agriculture. The group raised more than $11,000, which enabled them to purchase a second bus. The buses are used as mobile farmers’ markets that visit underserved neighborhoods in the area and distribute local, sustainably produced food.
Another beneficiary was the Maury Schoolyard Initiative. Their group raised more than $47,000 towards its proposed $1.4 million renovation of the Matthew Maury Elementary School playground and fields.
The group Space of Her Own raised just shy of $9,000, enabling it to renovate the bedrooms of 25 disadvantaged Alexandria girls. And Urban Alliance received more than $27,000 in donations and was able to double their internship program in Alexandria, from 25 to 50 high school seniors in the fall of 2014.
Porter said the idea for Spring2ACTion came about in 2011 when ACT for Alexandria learned of a successful statewide fundraising campaign that was launched in Minnesota.
In 2009, the Minnesota Community Foundation and other area organizations started GiveMN, a collective undertaking focused on making Minnesota a better place. The group organized an event called Give to the Max Day, which raised $14 million in 24 hours.
“We learned a lot from the group in Minnesota and were the first to implement it locally,” Porter said.
To drum up excitement, Spring2ACTion is driving competition in the city by offering grants ranging from $100 to $5,000 for outstanding performances in several categories, such as the most individual donors, the most funds raised and the most free agent donations. All funds and prizes that are raised during Spring2ACTion must be used toward Alexandria programs and services.
Several local restaurants already siphon a portion of their sales to the charity of a customer’s choice, but on Wednesday those eateries will be in competition with one another. Holy Cow, Pork Barrel BBQ and Sweet Fire Donna’s will vie for the most designations, with the winner set to receive a $500 prize.
The Old Town Boutique District shops will be battling for customer designations as well.
The Razzo Foundation, a crowd-funding platform, will host the drive and 92 percent of all designated donations will go to the participating nonprofits. Razoo retains 5.9 percent of each donation for processing and disbursement costs, while ACT for Alexandria keeps 2.1 percent for administrative expenses.
All donations are tax deductible. The minimum donation is $10 and there is no limit on maximum donations. For more information about Spring2ACTion, how to donate and on the participating nonprofits, visit www.spring2action.org.